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Pink in the Morning

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Hey there! I’m the super cute heroine who’s friends with all kinds of supernatural beings, Nene Yashiro! And to be frank, I have no clue what’s going on! You see, I woke up in a weird place. I’m in pajamas and a bed that are definitely not my own! Now that I’m awake, there’s this boy here who sure looks a lot like someone I know, but there’s something off about him…

Yashiro had thought the person in front of her was Hanako, but different. For one thing, he was taller! As she stared at him, she noticed other small things as well. The boyish roundness in his face was fainter than she recalled. His cheeks and jaw stood out to her more as well. Actually… everything about him stood out more! He was looking more opaque than usual. But when her gaze fell upon his large, moon-like amber eyes she knew without a doubt and despite the small changes in appearance, the person before her was the toilet-bound apparition.

“Hey… Hanako-kun... What’s going on?” she asked sheepishly.

“Eh?” he tiled his head, brow furrowed beneath his messy hair. “Hanako-kun? Did you just call me Hanako-kun?”

“Yeah?” Nene returned his confused expression. “What else would I call you?”

Hanako gave her a funny look before turning away, stifling laughter

“I could think of a few things! Let’s see…” he tapped his chin. “How about… My Love?”

Eh?

“Sweetheart?”

EHH?

“Or… What about Big Sexy?” Hanako winked and flashed her a peace sign.

“EHHHHH?!” Yashiro yelped, turning beet red. “Why would I ever call you any of that?!”

“I figure any of those would be better than being called a random girl’s name!” He shrugged, still grinning wide. Yashiro wanted to respond questioningly, but found herself completely incapable of speech in her current flustered state. In the silence Hanako leaned in closer to her, peering up with a faint glimmer of concern.

“Hey, Nene, I was just kidding… I didn’t think you’d be so flustered,” he frowned. Are you feeling okay?”

Yashiro opened her mouth to admonish him for speaking so intimately with her directly after harassment, but froze as Hanako placed a gentle hand on her forehead.

Warm.

Yashiro grabbed his hand and yanked it in front of her, making him yelp in surprise.

“You’re warm…” she murmured, ruby eyes widening.

“Ah… Uh…Yeah?”

She stared at his hand in silence. It was flushed light pink and felt just a little sweaty. Holding it tightly she could feel a faint ba-thump through the tips of her fingers. This was not Hanako’s hand.

“A…” Yashiro hesitated. “Amane-kun?”

Amane Yugi was sitting in front of her, alive. In Yashiro’s heart, she knew it wasn’t a fabrication like it had been in Mei-chan’s painting. Distracted by her thoughts, she gasped as Amane used his free hand to cup her face, tilting it up to meet his eyes.

“Nene what’s up with you? You’re acting like you don’t know me…”

Because I don’t, Yashiro thought, but didn’t dare say out loud. Amane’s hurt expression stirred anxiety in her chest.

“I’m sorry, Amane,” Yashiro replied, hoping her voice didn’t betray how awkward it was to refer to him that way.

“Don’t apologize,” Amane replied, his face softening. “Just don’t worry me like that okay?”

Yashiro nodded hesitantly, glancing away. Now that she was more composed, she wondered where exactly they were. It was clearly a bedroom, one with bright windows, a large bureau with a mirror, and a calm atmosphere. Is this Amane’s bedroom? She wondered, scanning the floor. There was clearly men’s clothing visible, though there was also feminine attire as well.

“Hey, Nene!” Amane gently tugged her chin to look back at him again.

“Wh-” Yashiro’s response was swiftly cut off as Amane leaned forward and kissed her. It was a quick action, done with an effortless quality as though he had done it a hundred times before. Yashiro was dumbfounded as he pulled away.

“Wanted to give you one before I forgot,” he gave her a wide grin.

Yashiro blinked. Then her face turned bright red.

“You KISSED ME!” she exclaimed, jumping straight up so she was standing on top of the bed.

“I cannot believe you! You just kissed me, like it was nothing! Do you know how important that was to me? Is this another prank? Because if it is this sort of harassment is not funny!”

Amane stared at her in bewildered silence.

“Honestly, I put up with so much but for that to-” Yashiro’s voice caught in her throat. Standing, she was finally able to catch a glimpse of herself in the dresser mirror. She was just like Hanako- no, this was Amane. The last vestiges of baby face were gone from her face, instead replaced by a more defined jaw and chin that made her look mature. Even her body looked different, with the barest hint of curves showing underneath the pajamas she wore. Of course, her ankles were still as thick and daikon-like as ever. But as Yashiro gaped at herself in the mirror she couldn’t help but think that she looked like an adult.

“Nene, seriously!” Amane grabbed her hand, distress clear in his tone. “What’s going on with you?”

“Hey, Amane,” Yashiro sank to her knees. “Would you believe me if I told you that last night when I fell asleep I was sixteen years old and you were a ghost?”

Amane stared at her for a long moment. “Are you telling me that?”

Yashiro nodded weakly.

The messy-haired young man looked away from her with a conflicted expression and sighed.

“Wait here. I’ll go call out from work for both of us.”

Yashiro watched him leave in a rather sulky manner. She felt guilty, though for what she wasn’t certain. Being confused? Waking up in a place where her best friend was no longer a ghost but a handsome young man who kisses her out of the blue?

Handsome! Stop that! Yashrio lightly smacked her face with her hands. As she did, something on her left hand caught in a tangle of her hair. She could free the hand without pulling anything, and inspected the object. On her hand were two silver bands, one with a modest diamond and the other with a simple engraved design.

“Beautiful,” she murmured, holding it up. The morning light streaming in through the windows caught on the diamond, sending small rainbow reflections across her face. But, wait. Where had she gotten these? She never owned one ring as a teenager, let alone two of this quality…

Slowly, a realization dawned on her. Yashiro gasped.

“Okay! We’re all set,” Amane announced as he returned. Yashiro stared at him.

“Hey,” she held up her hand with the rings. “Am I married?”

He looked back at her, clearly frustrated. “You really don’t remember?”

She nodded and he sighed.

“Yes, you are.”

“To who?”

At that question Amane’s cheeks flushed a deep pink and he turned away from Yashiro. Without saying a word, he held up his left hand.

On the fourth finger from his thumb, he had an identical simple silver band.

Yashiro blinked.

“…….. We’re married?!” her voice shot up an octave.

Amane nodded, still with his back to her.

“We’re married!” She repeated burying her hot face into her hands. “I can’t believe it! I’m married to Amane-kun!”

Yashiro sunk down further into bed, her mind racing as she tried to wrap her head around all the confusion and elation she was experiencing all at once. She had done it! No, wait. She’d more than done it! Not only did she get a boyfriend, but she had gotten a husband as well! Go Nene! Though… It wasn’t as if she could remember getting a boyfriend or getting married. She wasn’t even sure how it’d happened. Yashiro summoned every ounce of her willpower to prevent herself from screaming out of excite/embarrassment.

“Is it really that bad?”

Amane’s voice snapped Yashiro out of her head. “Huh?”

“Is being married to me so bad that you’ve… blocked it out?”

Yashiro could see a small shutter in Amane’s shoulders as he spoke. The twisting feeling in her stomach had returned.

Without hesitating, Yashiro reached and grabbed his arm. The choppy-haired young man glanced back at her, cheeks still flushed a deep red. His amber eyes crinkled in a way Yashiro was too familiar with. It was the face Hanako would make when he was deeply frustrated. Hanako’s true feelings were always expressed in a muted way. The exaggerated, dramatic expressions he would make when he was harassing, teasing or scaring others were certainly a part of him (one that she also loved), but Hanako would express his most vulnerable feelings with subtle changes. A small pout when he was embarrassed, his eyebrows raising when he was taken aback, and always with his faced turned away from others. They were quiet gestures compared with how he typically presented himself, but Yashiro knew if she tilted his face towards her she would find his true feelings written all over. Those crinkled half-moon eyes, filled with warmth even as a spirit.

Amane was no different. Yashiro realized how strange her actions must be to him, if this was real life. If they really were married, how awful would it be for your partner to wake up one day and treat you so incredulously? A pang of regret rippled through her.

“Amane-ku-… I mean, Amane,” she called to him softly. “I’m sorry. I really can’t remember anything, but that doesn’t mean I’m upset that I’m married to you.”

Nothing. Amane sat still as stone. Yashiro clenched her free hand tightly and took a deep breath.

“To be honest I’m p-pretty happy,” she willed her voice to not give out, though her flustered mind was screaming at her to run away. “That you would want to marry me, and all.”

Amane finally turned to face her. His face had softened, with a pout replacing his previously darkened look. Cute…

 “Of course I’d want to marry you Nene,” he replied, taking her hand that was resting on his arm. “After all, I love you.”

“LOVE-” Yashiro clamped a hand over her mouth to keep it shut. If she hadn’t, she wasn’t sure what kind of screeching, guttural noise might let loose. She could feel her pulse pounding in her head, her heart was threatening to leap out of her throat. Too much, too much! It’s all too much…!

“Nene!” Amane exclaimed and sat down next to her, wrapping an arm around her waist.

“I’m okay!” she waved her arms, hoping the deep breaths she was taking could will away the darkness blurring the edge of her vision.

“Alright, just, please don’t pass out on me too!” Amane’s frown returned, but he didn’t let her go.

Yashiro continued to breathe, trying to ignore how intensely he was staring at her. She noted how strange it was to feel such warmth radiating from him. It was Amane who broke the silence first once Yashiro appeared to physically calm down.

“What were you talking about before? With you being sixteen and me being a ghost?”

Yashiro blinked. “Um…” How am I even supposed to explain it? I would sound crazy! She thought, sheepishly peering up at Amane. There was no hint of judgement or irony in his expression. It wasn’t a flippant request.

“Well,” Yashiro let out a sigh. “Let me start from the beginning…”

And so, she told him everything. Or, nearly everything. She felt it inappropriate to reveal that he was apparently bound to the mortal world after murdering his twin brother. Perhaps, like the painting world, the two were on better terms here. She explained how she met a schoolboy ghost Hanako, how he teased her and annoyed her, forcing her to become his bathroom-cleaning assistant to save her from a life of eating fish food. She talked about how they helped the Seven Mysteries of Kamome Gakuen, how they befriended a plucky young exorcist by the name of Kou Minamoto.

“Well I’m glad to know Kou-kun is the same,” Amane cut in.

“Ah! Kou-kun is our friend here too!” That’s a relief!

“Yeah,” Amane nodded. “He was the best man at our wedding.”

WEDDING! Yashiro felt her heart leap again.

“He even caught the bouquet!” Amane continued. “Yep. His wedding to Sousuke was probably about a year later.”

“Ahh I- Huh?” WEDDING?! Yashiro’s mind raced. Mitsuba and Kou! Though, as she thought more about it, that outcome wasn’t too surprising. It was clear Kou cared deeply for Mitsuba. It wasn’t much of a stretch for her to see that fondness grow to a romantic level.

She snuck a glance back at Amane who was staring off, lost in thought. In that quiet moment, she could see the Hanako she knew reflected in him.

“Amane,” she asked. He turned to her. Though he had looked at her many times already that day, something in that instant made her cheeks burn yet again.

“Umm,” she swallowed. “Can you tell me more about our wedding?”

A grin spread across his face.

“Sure. Hold on, scoot over,” he nudged her, to which she complied. He sat down next to her, their shoulder touching.

As Amane spoke, Yashiro focused all her energy to keep herself from another outburst of flustered excitement. It was his turn to ramble on in detail, and he certainly enjoyed her adorable embarrassed face. He told her about everything, from the design of her dress, to who attended, and who made a surprising fool of themselves at the following reception. It was overwhelming for Yashiro, whose brain felt like it had overloaded to the point of involuntary muteness. Worse, everything he was describing was exactly as she had fantasized about! It was just all too perfect! Just as she thought she was at her limit, Amane uttered a single phrase that snapped her back into focus: Their honeymoon.

“Stop!” Yashiro exclaimed, her bright red face yet again buried in her hands. “If you say one word about, I think my head will actually explode.”

Amane let out a laugh, a bright clear sound that made her heart race. She was beginning to feel light headed again.

“Okay, I’ll skip that,” he teased. “Well, afterwards we settled down here. Once I graduated University, we bought a home together that’s not too far from Kamome, started our teaching jobs… and here we are.”

“We’re teachers?”

“Mmhm,” he nodded. “You teach agriculture and general biological sciences. I teach astronomy and physics. Kind of lucky we both ended up in the same- Hey! Nene?!”

Without realizing it, Yashiro had begun to cry. She swiped away a tear that rolled down her cheek, turning away in embarrassment.

“Sorry! It’s just,” she swallowed, trying to keep her voice from cracking. “I’m really happy you became an astronomy teacher.”

A look of confusion crossed Amane’s face, but he chuckled anyway.

“That’s a funny thing to be happy about, Nene,” he wiped a tear from her cheek. She wondered if he could feel how hot her cheek was.

“So, we live together now,” she said hurriedly, not wanting to dwell on the topic. “What’s that like?”

“Hmm…” he tapped his chin. “Guess it’s okay.”

“Eh?! Okay?!”

He gave her a wide grin. “You’re kind of a slob!”

“What!” Yashiro huffed, giving him a gentle nudge. “I don’t believe that for a second!”

“It’s true! Between you and that hamster, I don’t know who makes the bigger mess!”

“Hamster? You mean Black Canyon?”

“Oh, sorry, “Amane shook his head. “Black Canyon passed away a while back. I think he was… four years old? Didn’t think hamsters could live that long. Your current hamster is called ‘Cream Lightening’.”

Yashiro stared at him blankly.

“That name… is kind of lame.”

He shrugged. “You named it, not me.”

“Hm.” Note to self. Do not name a hamster Cream Lightening.

“We have a good time, though,” Amane smile, leaning back against the headboard of the bed. “You’re a really good cook, Nene. You’re always making me delicious donuts. Our friends live nearby, teaching is a lot of fun… Yeah. I think we live a pretty good life.”

The look on his face left Yashiro a warm feeling in her chest. Yashiro wasn’t sure if she had ever seen him look so content.

There was something she wanted to ask him. The conversation had left her feeling bold.

“And k-kissing every morning? Is that what we do too?” Yashiro asked, trying to sound casual as she fidgeted with the blanket spread.

“Oh,” Amane blushed, giving her another smirk. “Actually, that was your idea. You kept saying you never wanted to start your day with a kiss to wake you up.”

OHHHHHHHH! Internally, Yashiro felt an explosion go off in her head. GOOD JOB FUTURE NENE! YOU GENIUS!

She went to bury her head in a pillow, to muffle the scream bubbling up in her, but froze. We’re married, right? So, it shouldn’t be that odd…

“Hey…” Yashiro trailed off, looking away from him. “Could we kiss right now?”

 Amane blinked. “Yeah, of course.”

IT’S THAT EASY?! Yashiro’s brain screamed yet again. Being married rules!!!!

Her excited thoughts were interrupted as Amane cupped her face, bringing it close to his. Yashiro’s breath caught in her throat. Suddenly, she remembered kissing was not something she actually had any experience in, besides kissing Hanako’s cheek. Or being kissed by Hanako on the cheek.

Am I supposed to move a certain way? Wait! Shouldn’t I have my eyes closed?! She panicked, squeezing her eyes shut tightly.

But nothing happened.

After a few seconds, Yashiro cracked open one eye to peek at him. Amane was still close to her - their foreheads were now touching -  but he didn’t move any further. They sat in awkward silence for a beat, before Yashiro hesitantly called out to him.

“Amane?”

“Sorry, I got distracted,” he mumbled, nuzzling her cheek with his nose. “I really love you, Nene.”

Before she had a chance to reply, Amane leaned forward and finally kissed her. His lips were soft against hers, and he was gentle with her in a way she hadn’t expected. It lasted for only a few seconds before he started to hastily pull away. Wait! She reached up for his face. There was something so marvelous to her about how warm he was. Underneath her fingertips, his cheeks radiated heat.

Bringing him closer, she kissed him again, and again. It felt exactly how she had dreamed it would. Every time their lips touched sent a jolt of excitement through her. Amane was surprised by her enthusiasm, but didn’t hesitate to return it. Yashiro wrapped her arms around his neck and leaned deeper into the kiss, breaking apart only to take a breath.

The two fell back onto the bed. Something about Amane looked different from this angle. It took a moment for Yashiro to realize what it was, but when she did she couldn’t help but smile. Lying below him, he had no way of hiding his cute, embarrassed expression. Even if they were married, it was clear that such gestures still made Amane’s heart race just as much as Yashiro’s.

Leaning forward, he left small kisses all over Yashiro’s flushed face. Once again, Yashiro could feel herself becoming faint. But instead of moving any further, Amane rolled off to lie beside her.

“You’re really cute, Nene,” Amane smiled, brushing a stray strand of cream-colored hair from her face.

“If you keep talking like that, I think I’m going to explode,” she replied, but couldn’t bring herself to look away. The expression on his face was something Yashiro never wanted to end.

Scooting closer, she wrapped her arms around him and buried her head into his chest. His chest shuddered as he let out a low chuckle, placing a hand on her waist and the other on her head, playing absentmindedly with her hair. They held each other close for some time not caring about how much time passed, instead enjoying each other’s company. In that bright room next to a warm, alive Amane Yugi, Yashiro could feel herself growing sleepy.

“Amane,” she called out softly. “Waking up married to you made me really happy.”

Giving her a pat on the head, he chuckled. “You sure you wouldn’t rather wake up next to some super-handsome, tall and manly prince?”

Yashiro took a beat to reply. “I don’t think any prince could compare to you,” she mumbled.

Without looking, she knew he was blushing. Yashiro felt her eyelids growing heavier and the edges of her vision became blurred.

“Hey, I never told you,” she murmured as she drifted off, everything becoming dull. “I love you too, Amane…”

 

“Yashiro!”

 

Cold.

Yashiro’s eyes snapped open. The room was no longer warm and bright. The air felt vaguely damp, and there was an oddly cold spot behind her head…

Peering down at her were two large, amber-moon eyes.

“Hanako-kun?!” Yashiro exclaimed, jolting upright, narrowly avoiding colliding with the apparition’s head.

“Yo! Yashiro, there you are!” he grinned. “Thought we lost you for a sec!”

“Lost me?!” she spun around to face Hanako, who was sitting cross legged on the ground.

“You came tearing in here and slipped on the floor that Boy just mopped!” he explained, resting his chin in his propped-up hand. “Knocked you out cold!”

“Senpai!” Kou pipped up from the other side of the room. “I’m so sorry! If I had known you’d come running, I would have put up a caution sign!”

Yashiro looked distant, struggling to wrap her mind around what could have possibly happened.

“But… I was just in that bedroom! It felt so real! Hanako-kun were there with me and we-” AH! As soon as she processed the words that had come out of her mouth, Yashiro stopped cold.

The two boys were staring at her, eyes wide.

“Eh? Yashiro… don’t tell me…” Hanako wrapped his arms around himself, putting on the most innocent face he possibly could. “… You were having dirty dreams about me~?”

“SHUT UP!” Yashiro yelped, instinctively hurly her nearby mop at him, a move he easily moved out of the line of fire from. Hanako was quite pleased with himself, rolling through the air while cackling wildly. Kou, on the other hand, was a deep red as he continued to look agape at Yashiro.

“Shut up, shut up, shut up! I hate you, Hanako!” Yashiro gathered her things and stomped to the door of the girl’s bathroom. Before she left, she paused, shoulders quivering with anger.

Spinning around on her heel she pointed one last indignant finger at Hanako.

“And YOU! I will NEVER call you ‘Big Sexy’! Don’t even think about it!” she declared before high-tailing it out of the room, leaving behind an uproar between Kou hurling various exorcism-related threats and Hanako’s uproarious laughter.

 


 

Things grew quiet in the old school building’s girl’s restroom once more, after Kou properly throttled Hanako until he finally believed the ghost boy’s cries of having no idea what Yashiro had been talking about. Hanako had situated himself in his usual spot, staring out the stained-glass window as Kou finished up the daily cleaning.

“Hey, Hanako,” he asked after some time had passed.

“Yeah, Boy?”

“What was Senpai saying as she woke up?”

Hanako tugged his hat down.

“Dunno kid,” he lied.